Scholarly research

Free Market Intelligence for Franchise-Heavy Industries

The other day, a client came to me with an interesting request: How many independent pizza restaurants operate in the US.  After consulting the usual library resources and pizza industry associations, I was still unable to fully answer this question (I had the total number of restaurants, market size etc, but I did not have the number of non-franchise establishments).  I turned to Google for answers and in the process found not only the answer to my question, but also an interesting free resource: Franchise Direct (http://www.franchisedirect.com/).  What is Franchise Direct?

Franchise direct is a site designed for people who are considering taking the plunge and opening up their own franchise, say a Starbucks, for example.  The site, as far as I can tell, makes money by directing interested parties to franchise opportunities.  To make the site more attractive to prospective franchise owners, Franchise Direct provides industry information for each franchise vertical it profiles, for example coffee houses or housecleaning services. 

How Can Librarians and Researchers Benefit from Franchise Direct?

The reports on Franchise Direct are actually pretty good and typically contain market sizing, demographic, and industry-trend data.  Their data and analysis are not de novo.  The information for their typical industry report comes from major research firms like NDP and Frost & Sullivan, in addition to data from industry associations etc.   Franchise direct also has data on the capital requirements for various franchises, which is an interesting data point in its own right.

Are there any Problems with the Site?

Franchise Direct does have some major drawbacks, though.  Consistency is a big problem for this site.  Some industries have very light industry profiles while others have no information at all.  Thus, mining Franchise Direct for market intelligence is something of a tossup.  You can rest assured that popular franchises like coffee houses or pizza restaurants will have good market reports, while less popular verticals, like courier franchises, will have less attention.  The site, which has been around for approximately 9 years, does not seem particularly interested in filling in these gaps. 

In any case, Franchise Direct is a great resource to keep in your back pocket.  It has very useful market information on consumer industries that have a multitude of franchising opportunities, not to mention details and data on starting a franchise.  Check it out here: http://www.franchisedirect.com/

The Sweet Sound of… Data

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I was getting my hipster on, listening to a song called Love Show by Skye, and for whatever deep reason, it prompted me to think about researching the music industry.  Without further adieu, I've put together a list of five great resources, in no particular order, for freely available music industry research: 1.  The RIAA-  Not necessarily the first name we associate with “giving stuff away freely,” but the infamously-terrifying-to-college-students trade group has a research tab that includes downloadable reports on shipment data, music’s economic impact, and of course, the effects of piracy.

2.   The IFPI- aka the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, it’s another major industry trade group akin to the RIAA, and in fact the RIAA links to a handful of the IFPI’s reports from its research page.  Nonetheless, it deserves its own mention, especially for its in-depth Digital Music Report that it has published for five years now.

3.  Digital Music News-  Not only does it sport a spiffy logo, but it also has an excellent selection of industry news and graphic-laden summaries of studies with titles like:  “92% of Music Fans Still Prefer Ownership...”, or “81% of iTunes Collections Never Get Played. Ever...”, or “Whoa: 3 Stores = 94.4% of Indie Digital Revenues...”.  It returned great results with keyword searches like: “study” or “trend” or “marketing”.

4.  Billboard.biz- The business research offshoot of the main Billboard publication, it has several categories of industry news, e.g. retail or branding, plus genre-specific news too, e.g. Latin or Dance.

5.  The Music Business Research Blog- A 2+ year blog that’s going strong, it’s run by Dr. Peter Tschmuck, an industry expert and university professor.  Concerning this endeavor, he states:  “This blog for Music Business Research is designed as a scientific discussion forum on all issues of music business/industry in all its manifestations.”  Not only is it an intelligent blog, but it also includes downloadable theses and papers that were generously contributed for Dr. Tschmuk’s cause.

Business Source Complete

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It’s 2012, we’re back, and we mean business!  Well actually, we mean business no matter the year, so what better way to start 2012 than with one of the most fundamental business research tools:  The Business Source Complete Database, or BSC as well affectionately call it. BSC is just one subject-specific database from a vendor named EBSCO, and EBSCO’s full repertoire of subject databases spans practically every major field of study.  I looked up EBSCO in its own database (not unlike Googling for Google) and the first result, an August 2011 Datamonitor360 report says EBSCO Publishing is, “the world’s most used for-fee internet research service.”  EBSCO is so ubiquitous of a research tool that the odds of your local library having a BSC subscription are pretty good.  (Public libraries may have several useful tools beyond BSC, e.g. Reference USA.)  If they don’t, you might check with your local college/university and see if they allow guests to access their databases.

Simply put, we use BSC all the time for business research.  While it might not be updated up-to-the-minute as some other databases like Factiva, its sheer breadth of scope spans a bit of everything: all manner of trade and popular news, industry reports, popular publications like Harvard Business Review, and scholarly articles.  BSC is generally our second stop after Google.

Tips:

1.  As a friendly reminder BSC is not Google; try searching with fewer keywords at the onset, and then limit your results.

2.  If you’re doing research that spans multiple topics and your library/university has subscriptions to many EBSCO subject databases, you may see the Choose A Database button which lets you search across them.

All The Money In The World...

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...has been visually distributed in one awesomely massive chart, courtesy of Randall Munroe's profoundly entertaining & enlightening web comic XKCD.  (That's your cue to bookmark it.) He says on the poster, "Nearly every amount has a cited source- when possible, a scholarly work or government publication," and- in a move that captures our librarian hearts- he offers a link to download the impressively long list of references here.

P.S.  This is not a poster for perusing on your smartphone.

P.P.S.  We hope you had a Thanksgiving holiday as happy and fullfeeling as ours!

Business Videos- Part Two

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If you took the time to look through YouTube's business education channel from the Part One companion post, then you might already expect that this second segment on educational business videos is a profile of the KhanAcademy.  The KhanAcademy videos can all be found on YouTube, but seeing the sheer volume and breadth from the KhanAcademy mother ship is impressive.  It's even more impressive considering its founder Salman 'Sal' Khan, (who has three degrees from MIT and an MBA from Harvard) made the vast majority of them as he discusses in the FAQ. A 501c3 non-profit, the KhanAcademy is making the world a smarter and better place by spreading knowledge via freely available 10-20 minute short tutorial videos on a wide array of academic topics, including a significant concentration on (unsurprisingly) business finance.  Want lectures on topics concerning the 2009 financial crisis, or need a well-rounded view on the American-Chinese dept loop, or can't remember how to derive market capitalization?  Sal's videos provide those answers, albeit you might have to stare at his notes carefully because his handwriting is sometimes a bit messy.  Great knowledge doesn't have to come in a shiny package though, so that's hardly a reason to avoid brushing up on some business basics.  We at bizologie say kudos to Khan!

Bookmark Futurity…

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…but be forewarned that it’s highly addictive.  In a nutshell Futurity.org's akin to the colorful see & be scene watering hole, the one with an amazing happy-hour special where all the hip people go to flaunt themselves.  Only the colorful characters are the top research universities in the US, UK, and Canada, and what’s being flaunted isn’t skin or fashion but research findings.  (Granted, some of those findings could theoretically be about skin or fashion, but I digress.) Now research findings may not immediately sound interesting to everyone, but with highly catchy titles, one-pager lengths, and summaries that aren’t painfully erudite, it’s easy to find yourself thinking, “I’ve got three minutes.  I’ll just click on one more link because I really want to know how they figured that out.”

Futurity breaks its research headlines into four categories: Earth & Environment, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology, and Society & Culture.  For business researchers, that last category may have the most draw, with tantalizing headlines like: Super food: Shoppers will pay 25% more, or Exports + R&D = competitive edge. The other categories though often highlight emergent technologies that have the potential to form the basis of for new or niche markets, so they are worth looking into as well.  Who knows?  If nothing else you may read a study that’s a nifty conversation starter for the next time you find yourself at your local see & be scene watering hole.

A Study on Spending

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Once again academia has pretty much confirmed one of life’s truisms.  In the 2006 Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, authors Epley, Mak, and Idson, in an article titled "Bonus of Rebate?: The Impact of Income Framing on Spending and Saving," drew on previous research in mental budgeting & accounting, which has demonstrated that where our spending behavior can be predicated on which account we pull money from.  They took another step along this line of research and conducted four experiments, each of which supported their hypothesis that when we spend, we do so with a consideration of how we acquired that money to begin with. Basically, if we receive money that is presented to us in the form of a “bonus” to our absolute wealth, we are significantly more inclined to spend it than if we are told that the money is couched in the form a rebate, or “a return to a prior state” of our wealth.  This behavior, in their words, has important “ implications for the consumption of other commodities, assessments of risk, and government tax policies.”  For example, our government has in recent history (2001, 2009) given Americans rebate checks with the hope that Americans would spend them to stimulate the economy.  Unfortunately for those officials the numbers cited (at least for 2001) reflected that nearly only 22% of us spent that money, and as we know, we still have yet to recover lickety-split from 2009.

Sunlight & Spending

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It’s time for businesses to consider ditching those fluorescent bulbs in favor of sun lamps, because a scholarly study conducted by researchers at the University of Alberta and the University of Winnipeg in Canada, published in the November 2010 Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, has some compelling statements on the matter. In the study titled, “The effect of weather on consumer spending,” the authors cited years of similar research which shows that- as we all know from our own lives- exposure to sunlight can improve our moods, and that people in a good mood are more likely to spend money. They then built on these studies to propose that, “the effect of weather – and, in particular, sunlight – on consumer spending is mediated by negative affect. That is, as exposure to sunlight increases, negative affect decreases and consumer spending tends to increase.”

After performing a series of mixed methods studies, they stated, “we find that participants exposed to artificial sunlight are willing to pay significantly more for a variety of products than participants exposed to regular lighting only, and that this effect is mediated by negative affect.” They went on to suggest that retailers should consider both incorporating natural lighting and/or artificial sunlight, and also increasing lighting levels on days in which the weather is bad in order to reduce negative feelings and increase spending.

On the flipside, the researchers acknowledged that they conducted their study during the cooler half of the year, and also considered that “the effect of more sunlight on retail sales becomes negative when the weather is already warm (e.g., during the summer).” This just reinforces my hypothesis that the only stores seeing increased sales from consumers who are overexposed to sunlight are the ones selling aloe and painkillers.

Photo credit : (cc-by-nc-nd) Bruno Monginoux / www.Landscape-Photo.net : nature and urban photography, free stock photos